Bildungsroman with Distant Nation

by AIDAN FORSTER

 

-after Cathy Linh Che

 

In summer, my father spoke German with Ms. Elka.

I learned the word for dream, traume,

 

slept clumsy in my white bed before the mirror.

& the word for love: Elka’s son

 

with his tongue in my mouth. Perfect blonde boy

from the city, skin flashlit with all his summers.

 

When Ms. Elka visited, I poured her water

& brought her cookies on a plastic tray.

 

I greeted her in what little I knew,

mouth searching for the wounding language.

 

I didn’t know how to say that I took her son

into my mouth like a river, or that I held

 

a small lightbox in my chest that flashed

when he touched my hairy inner thigh.

 

All I knew was escape: to sleep facedown,

dream in a language I could not speak:

 

a land with no homes, no fathers or women:

a lush swath of forest, its wrens nesting like wrens.